Summary of letter submitted to the Union Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution regarding the rise of food insecurity of vulnerable populations in India due to the nation-wide coronavirus lockdown:
On May 4, 2020, Common Cause sent a representation to the Union Minister of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution Ram Vilas Paswan, providing suggestions to address the mounting food insecurity among vulnerable populations owing to the coronavirus lockdown. Underscoring the need for urgent action to mitigate hunger and distress, we pointed out how crores of people were going hungry despite surplus buffer stocks in government granaries. Common Cause also suggested a bevy of measures to address the food security crisis. Specific suggestions included:
- Releasing excess grain stocks with the Food Corporation of India (FCI) and other government agencies for public distribution.
- Better monitoring and implementation of the PDS on the ground through specialised committees for grievance redressal, and doorstep delivery of rations in areas far from fair price shops.
- Initiating a system, temporarily at least, for universal distribution of food, with or without Ration Cards or Aadhar Cards.
- Immediate, stringent implementation of the One-Nation, One Ration card system in all states.
- Including all eligible persons under National Food Security Act (NFSA) as per the estimated population of 2020-21, instead of still using the outdated 2011 census data.
Representation to the Prime Minister to ensure that the rights of children are protected during the Covid-19 pandemic
Common Cause, along with Right to Education Forum, numerous academicians as well as several civil society organisations, urged the government on May 11, 2020, to take steps to ensure that children enjoy their rights to survival, protection, education and development during and after the COVID-19 pandemic without any discrimination based on religion, gender, class and caste. Some of the suggestions included:
- To safeguard food security of India’s children, ensure smooth implementation of the notification for home delivery of mid-day meals and the Supreme Court’s suo moto order for providing nutritional food for children and lactating mothers through the Anganwadi Centres (AWC) for children on an urgent basis.
- Steps should be taken for child protection, including identification of children at risk of violence and abuse during the lockdown. Helplines and other child protection measures should be declared essential services and kept open. Child protection committees at district and block levels should be activated to monitor child protection.
- Wherever possible, the children and parents within the vicinity of the neighbourhood school should be connected through messaging service groups comprising SDMC/SMC members and parents. These groups can be used to keep in constant touch with parents (if teachers are not in the same locality) and children. These groups must be used only for matters relating to children's education and nothing else. Wherever necessary, the teachers can visit children to offer counselling or advice and ensure that the mental health of children is safeguarded. The same procedure needs to be followed in case of AWCs and Crèches. Educational materials could be provided along with relief and dry food packages by the Government.